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You Gotta Be There

Staff Report / Opinion / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner /  April 6, 2007

When it comes to individual rights and methods and means of hunting and fishing, the outdoor community - especially hunters and trappers - has cause for concern whenever the Legislature gets involved.

But in the case of House Bill 220, which would prohibit computer-assisted remote hunting in Alaska, there is little cause for worry. Alaska should join the many other states banning this method of harvest before it gains a foothold. The only caveat we might add here is that we really don't need the Legislature to take care of this.

As a "no-brainer" wildlife regulation issue, it's welcome fodder for politicians. But Alaska has a fish and game regulatory system in place, and that is the best venue for this sort of issue. We would rather not see legislators getting in the habit of skipping that process just because an issue sounds juicy or because other state legislatures are doing it.

This is a matter for the Alaska Board of Game. It's not so urgent that a ban must be passed immediately. The board could take this up at its 2008 statewide meeting and handle it just as effectively - and make the practice just as illegal.

The issue arose nationally after a Texas vendor created a system for shooters to log into an online system where they could watch a parcel of land via Web camera and remotely control a rifle and shoot game with the click of a mouse. A person at the site would dispatch wounded animals and collect the downed game.

Among the travesties of human nature that can be found on the Internet, this one isn't the worst and there no doubt would be money to be made for those willing to engage in such a practice. But it's not hard to imagine potential dangers and abuses of such a system without strict regulation. It also rubs against the grain of any concept of fair chase and what it means to be a hunter. Politically, it's dead meat. So, most states are simply banning it before it takes off.

Most states are making some allowances for the potential of this technology to be used in assisting handicapped hunters. Again, it's not hard to imagine how such technology could be used, except in this instance it could enhance quality of life where physical disabilities prevent people from fully participating in a hunt.

However, there should always be one simple bottom line for anyone, including people with disabilities, seeking the opportunity to kill a wild animal. They have to be there, no matter how they may be assisted in making the kill. They must be in the area to harvest the game and accept responsibility for the kill. Anything less is online grocery shopping.

The issue needs to be addressed for Alaska and if the Legislature passes HB 220 it won't be the first time that body delved into game management, but there is a better way. The Alaska Board of Game is perfectly equipped to handle the computer-assisted remote hunting issue. It's just not necessary to run this through the Legislature when more pressing issues abound.

knamed Romeo and known for playing with larger dogs accompanying people on walks.

Some people walking their dogs in the area may have become complacent because the wolf has not been seen lately, officials said.
"The bottom line is, right now it's out there," said Ryan Scott, a wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "(The snatching) is a reminder to ourselves that a wolf is a wild animal."

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